50 years. 50 queers.

Scott Thompson

Scott Thompson

Mar 26, 2013

Name: Scott Thompson
DOB: June 12th 1959
Occupation: Actor/Comedian/Writer
Favourite Book: Huckleberry Finn
Favourite Movie: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Favourite Music: Al Green
Favourite Person At/Over 50: David Bowie
One Word About 50: Acceptance

For most people, turning 50 is a defining milestone in their lives. It’s a time to evaluate your priorities and focus on the important things in one’s life, what goals and dreams are in need of fulfillment and how to navigate the next few decades. For Scott Thompson, turning 50 was more than a defining moment it’s when he was diagnosed with cancer.

It was truly a Dickensian time in Thompson’s life—the best of times, the worst of times. “When I turned 50 two things happened, I got cancer and The Kids in the Hall were handed ‘Death Comes to Town’,” he recalls of that most strangely dichotomous time. “In one month I got the worst news and the best news. That year was me recovering from cancer. But I had to make ‘Death Comes to Town’ during that. I did that in between my chemo and my radiation. So, I basically got this disease and I was handed the keys to my next car, in a way. But I couldn’t drive it for a year.”

While a cancer diagnosis may be defining moment in any person’s life, Thompson wasn’t about to let cancer define who he was. Instead of circling the wagons, he faced his cancer and decided on a new path to take in his career—and his life. “It was the beginning of—maybe it sounds too grand to call it a comeback—but I do call it a comeback,” he explains. “That was it. I said, ‘this is going to be the groundwork. I plant the seeds here. I get better and I face the next part of my life.’ It all kind of happened at the same time. I got sick, I got my graphic novel published the same year, then ‘Death Comes to Town’ and it just sort of started. My attitude kind of changed a little bit,” he continues. “I stopped being angry about certain things, I let go of any bitterness that I might have had because I realized that all of those things could give you cancer. I thought the best thing for me to do, in order for it not to happen to me again, is to kind of be a little more positive.”

“You realize, as you get older that life is grey, it’s shades of grey, everything should be taken in context. Political correctness is where context goes to die.”

While he may have a new, positive attitude that doesn’t mean he’s demurred and is a shrinking violet. Quite the opposite, Thompson is probably more outspoken and unabashed than he ever was. In fact, one of the things he’s railing against is the new political correctness that has swept queerdom in the past couple of decades. “It’s fascinating to me now that a lot of my work—like The Kids in the Hall stuff on television—is much more censored than it was twenty years ago,” he says. “It’s weird because you’d think that things would have loosened. They have loosened in many ways but political correctness has tightened its noose over acceptable language. In order to protect gay and lesbian people from abuse, these censors have gone overboard an eliminated any ‘bad words’ to protect out tender ears, which I think is a disservice to people because I think if you want to know the truth you need to hear the words. Faggot has become a very polarizing word. It’s the new N-word, the new F-word.”

Thompson remembers that 25 years ago, we could say just about anything because we were breaking down the culture and embracing our differences as queer people in society and within the constructs of the LGBTQ community, language be damned. “Back then homophobia was so part of life, it was just so natural to everyone; everyone did it. Those words were always being used and we were very used to them. We were trying to take them back,” he contends. “Now, we’ve taken them back and we’re trying to bury them. I don’t agree with that. People that are so adamant about that sort of thing make me nervous,” he continues. “People who think they have ‘the truth’. If you’re this age [53] and you really think you have all the answers, you have none. That’s not what life’s about. You realize, as you get older that life is grey, it’s shades of grey, everything should be taken in context. Political correctness is where context goes to die.”

“Think about our generation. We grew up alone, thinking we were the only ones, we didn’t have any role models; the world hated us.”

Part of Thompson’s new attitude comes from spending his down time recalibrating and reexamining his life. One of the side effects of having cancer was it helped put his career and life in perspective, as well as fine-tuned what was important and what was superfluous. “I had a lot of time to think,” he recalls of those days during treatment and recovery. “I used to think, ‘why do I always get in trouble? I should probably just shut my mouth. Why do I make people uncomfortable?’ Then when I was sick I had a long time to think about why I did what I did I went, ‘you know what, I do a good thing. I serve the public in a way.’ I feel that that’s what my job is, to bring things out of the darkness and into the light and say, ‘look, it’s not that scary.’”

Aside form revitalizing his career, Thompson found that he was ready to work on the personal aspects of his life. Having been single but ‘social’ for much of his 40s, he wanted to start exploring what romance and dating would be like in his 50s. He was in for a surprise. “Dating is dead,” he proclaims. “I feel like I’ve had too much sex. Most males would think that’s a great complaint to have. I feel there hasn’t been much I’ve denied myself that way. I’ve pretty much explored all my peccadilloes. My heart needs a little filling up right now. I don’t know if I’m really made for sex as a sport,” he continues, “even though I love sex, I just want the next one to start with a kiss. I wish there was a little old fashioned dating rather than just looking at someone’s profile and seeing what they’re in to and cross-referencing with what you’re in to. It’s so cut and dry.”

Thompson can see the inherent comedy in sparking a dating life in one’s 50s, from the perils of a flaccid penis to the lure of that little blue pill, it’s all rife with comedy—and a little pathos. He also is constantly on the lookout for fresh places to meet men. “I’ve been on a bit of a rampage the last couple of years, once I got better. I tell myself it was a natural reaction to almost dying. That’s why there’s a lot of sex at funerals. A lot of people hook up at funerals,” he says with a deadpan voice. “Weddings and funerals. I think it happens at funeral to sort of push away the darkness, to reaffirm life. So, basically, not enough of my friends are dying. That’s the thing. Come on guys, step it up a little,” he says with a laugh. “More funerals.”

“I could have slept with Ian McKellen.”

On the other side of the coin he sees the difficulty gay men can have in forming intimate bonds—because gay men were never taught how. Here, he may be edging toward the controversial, but his points are cogent. “I think gay men, especially our generation, were brought up alone,” he says. “We were brought up in a world that was very hostile towards us, we had to put up a lot of walls, we were very guarded, and we look at the world, I think, as being against us and trying to hurt us. We all have enormous scars from bullying and the brutality of the world, particularly men, it’s generally men who did it to us.”

“Quite often we have Stockholm Syndrome and we find ourselves drawn to the men who hurt us and that’s a lot to get over, I can’t deny that. I’ve definitely eroticized my abuse,” he says recalling his romantic and sexual past. “Think about our generation. We grew up alone, thinking we were the only ones, we didn’t have any role models; the world hated us. When I was a child homosexuality wasn’t even legal. Then you start to come out and then there’s a disease that’s linked to sexuality and you watch people die around you. We’re incredibly wounded,” he maintains. “We’re so scarred. Then we find ourselves on this shore, survivors. We have a lot of scars. Then we confuse intimacy with hot sex. Then you think, ‘Oh, I’ve never gone this far with a person sexually.’ But that’s not true intimacy. We’ve become like whores. It’s the whore philosophy: we’ll do everything but kiss. I like intimacy,” he concludes. “Real intimacy.”

Speaking of romance and dating, Thompson recalls an encounter with a very famous gay icon whom he could have fulfilled a sexual fantasy with—had he acquiesced. Instead, it has become one his big regrets. “I could have slept with Ian McKellen,” he announces matter-of-factly. “I met him at the Emmys many years ago when The Kids in the Hall were nominated and I got introduced to him by Armistead Maupin—whom I admire very much—and he gave me this big fucking kiss, stuck his tongue down my throat and then invited me to his place. I turned him down!” he recalls with a laugh. “Here’s the irony of it: he was too old. Now I’m that age, so it serves me right. Back then I was such an ageist. I would never have slept with a guy my [current] age. Now I look back and he was probably my age now. That was 1994. That was stupid. That’s my big regret. I’ve never slept with a celebrity.”

Another gay idol from years past is Quentin Crisp. Thompson has a special affinity for the late Naked Civil Servant; he based one of his most famous characters on Crisp. “He was a big role model for Buddy Cole,” Thompson declares. “He lived life by his rules. He didn’t compromise for anyone in the face of it all, he’s proudly effeminate. He’s an Alpha-Queen. Effeminacy does not necessarily mean weak. And he was hilarious. He was a role model for Buddy Cole, the way he dressed and everything, he was an unrepentant queen.”

Scott Thompson has seen many highs and lows in his 53 years and through it all he has kept his sense of humour and his unapologetic wit. Life is looking good as he marches through his 50s. He will be starring in the new NBC series Hannibal as Detective Jimmy Price this year and his standup career has been on the upswing. He’s learned an awful lot getting to this place in his life. One of the biggest is acceptance. “You have to accept by this age, it’s pretty much set. You are who you are,” he says. “People are seeing you the way that they see you. It’s very difficult to change what you did the first 50 years. There’s nothing you can do about it so you better accept yourself.”

4 comments

  1. Antoine /

    Love Scott Thompson he’s a great talent and a community treasure

  2. Robert /

    great article!

  3. Patricia /

    Great stuff!

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